Defend Tata Creek grasslands

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Posted in:  Conservation, Featured, Wildsight

It’s bad news for wildlife and grasslands if the provincial government agrees to formalize dirt biking trails in Tata Creek.

While uncontrolled recreation is already running rampant in this sensitive habitat, a proposal by a dirt biking association to establish official trails and manage the area is not the right direction to take. We want you to write a letter to the ministry in charge asking for this proposal to be rejected.

Why?

Continued high-impact human use results in more destruction to the land and the animals that depend on it. By formalizing trails, it will bring even more dirt bikers to the region who inadvertently rip up soil, scare off wildlife, and negatively impact the environment.

The more than 60 kilometres of proposed trails run through a stunning natural setting filled with beautiful open grasslands mixed with sparsely forested areas and dense stands of Interior Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine. Wetlands and riparian features connect this area of the trench with a blue thread, tying the habitat together in a space perfectly suited for a variety of plants and animals such as birds, badgers, mule deer, elk, and bears. The unique, high dry grasslands are well suited for ungulates, both for their foraging and security cover.

This area has already been hard-hit by human activity. A study done in 2006 noted 18 wetlands in the Tata / Skookumchuck range were negatively impacted by recreational users. And use has only gone up in the past 14 years, leading to more undocumented disturbances to the area.

“Formalizing more than 60 kilometres of dirt biking trails could increase cumulative impacts, users, and further increase off-road impacts on sensitive ecosystems such as wetlands and grasslands,” states Eddie Petryshen, Wildsight Conservation Coordinator.

 

Similar trails on steep slopes in Koocanusa have lead to significant erosion.

Topsoil is easily removed from this shallow-rooted area, leading to a ground ripe for invasive species to take hold as well as erosion, which wreaks havoc with intricate existing water flows. Like scraping off skin, the exposed under layer is not protected and open to infections that can harm the delicate ecosystem found in this region.

It’s not just the flora that will affected, but the fauna too. Elk, mule deer, and grizzly bears will certainly lose out. Research consistently confirms that increased human access into their high value habitat puts wildlife on the run. They move away from a secure space well suited for their needs, and instead are forced into less-suitable habitat. This can lead to overall population declines.

We have serious concerns about the current project’s impact on wildlife, connectivity, and grassland ecosystems. Developing more than 60 kilometres of dirt biking trails could increase cumulative impacts resulting in decreased habitat availability and increased disturbance for sensitive species. Our preference would be to limit motorized activity and rehabilitate roads and trails If intensive motorized recreation is going to take place, it should be concentrated into a much smaller area like the heavily utilized area near the existing motocross jumps.

Regardless of the outcome, increased control and enforcement of motorized recreation is necessary in order to support responsible users ability to recreate with a minimum of impacts.

 

Sunrise by a lone pine on the Tata Creek Prairie. Photo by Lyle Grisdale

How you can help:

We were disappointed to see the Regional District of East Kootenay did not reject the project. However, BC Rec Sites and Trails is responsible for making the final decision on whether to allow this proposal to move forward. Would you consider sending an email to Lisa Cox, (recreation office for Rocky Mountain South district) and cc us so we can see your response? To email Lisa.Cox@gov.bc.ca and cc info@wildsight.ca, click here.

We don’t know how long it will take the government to make a decision, so act now.